Several Research Sources Refute the Description of the Smolensk Air Disaster in Jessikka Aro's Book

This article was originally published in Finnish on 27 May 2024. Read the Finnish version here.

In her new book, an award-winning Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro claims that the 2010 air disaster was caused by a Russian bomb attack, which was covered up by the Polish Government. However, two accident investigations carried out in Poland and research by a US aviation laboratory demonstrate clearly that the plane transporting the president of Poland and senior military officers was destroyed upon impact with trees and not as the result of an explosion.

A Tupolev Tu-154 airliner operated by the Polish Air Force crashed with fatal consequences in a wooded area approximately one kilometer from Smolensk North Airport on the morning of 10 April 2010 at 10:41 Moscow Time. The president of Poland Lech Kaczyński, his wife Maria Kaczyńska, and 94 other people lost their lives in the accident. The accident also claimed the lives of numerous high-ranking representatives of the Polish armed forces and Government, including the commanders of the Polish Air Force, Land Forces, and Navy. The passengers were on their way to attend a ceremony honoring the victims of the Katyn massacre. Katyn is a village west of Smolensk, where thousands of Polish officers and members of intelligentsia were murdered on the order of Joseph Stalin and buried in mass graves during World War II.

Based on the accident investigation carried out in Poland, we know that the plane was approaching Smolensk North Airport in a thick fog that had settled over a wooded area reducing visibility to approximately 500 meters. Both air traffic control and the crew of a Polish Yakovlev Yak-40 that had landed on the airport that same morning had warned the pilots of the poor weather conditions. According to the pilots of the Yak-40, visibility was reduced to mere 200 meters. Despite this, the Polish Air Force pilots flying the Tupolev attempted to land the plane.

Just five seconds before the aircraft was destroyed, its left wing hit a birch tree, cutting through the sturdy trunk. A 6.5-meter section of the wing was torn off the end of it, after which the plane first rolled steeply to the left and was then inverted upon hitting the ground. As it turned over, the plane also lost its tail fin, which hit a poplar tree. Everyone on board the Tupolev died instantly.

In early May, Finnish journalist Jessikka Aro published a book on Russian hybrid warfare titled Putinin maailmansota (Putin’s World War, Johnny Kniga 2024), in which she aims to refute the prevailing view of the Smolensk air disaster. In the book, In the book, Aro constructs a narrative based primarily on Polish interview sources, under which the plane was destroyed by bombs planted during maintenance in Russia. According to Aro’s claims, the prevailing view is based on propaganda from the Russian administration, which was distributed by the then Government of Poland and accepted as gospel by the rest of the international community. According to this interpretation, the bomb attack was carried out as part of Russian hybrid warfare, which Aro discusses in her book with examples from other countries as well.

The book dismisses the two thorough investigations of the accident carried out in Poland and ignores the work Polish investigative journalists who reject the bomb theory. A report on the accident published by the Polish TVN24 news channel and based on modeling by the National Institute for Aviation Research laboratory (NIAR AVET) also undermines many of the claims presented in the book, but Aro does not appear to have read the report.

Aro’s book is commendable in certain other parts. According to Faktabaari’s assessment, the book offers Finnish readers new information based on first-hand sources particularly on Russian information influence activities in Germany during the war in Ukraine. However, based on the information gathered from several different sources, numerous claims regarding the Smolensk air disaster are incorrect and misleading. In this article, we focus on the central claims on which the description of the disaster in the book is built. In her arguments, Aro also employs a substantial amount of emotive content, such as claims regarding the desecration of the remains of the Polish deceased in Russia or the theft of communication devices and money belonging to the deceased. While it is possible that this information is correct, we make no comments on it, as it is irrelevant with regard to the causes of the disaster.

A review and reiteration of the causes of the accident are necessary on several grounds. Jessikka Aro previously worked as a journalist for Finland’s public service broadcaster Yle and has been internationally recognized since the release of Putinin trollit (Putin’s Trolls) in 2019. At present, translated versions of the book have been published in more than 15 countries. Putin’s Trolls focuses on the information influence activities of the Putin administration and campaigns of harassment and defamation targeting Aro. The new book (Putin’s World War) has also been discussed with international publishers. On her Twitter account, Aro has stated that the book will be published in Sweden in the autumn.

The version of the Smolensk air disaster narrated by the award-winning journalist also spread through such major Finnish media outlets as Yle Radio 1, Iltalehti, Talouselämä, Kauppalehti, and Helsingin Sanomat almost without reservation. This is a worrying sign of the Finnish media’s uncritical approach to claims that are based on a narrative of hostile influence activities by Russia. In the case of Aro’s book, the current, democratically elected Government of Poland, which is committed to the rule of law, also comes under fire.

Articles discussing Aro’s book following its publication failed to notice that the Smolensk narrative presented in the book is largely based on the writings of two Polish journalists, Michał Rachoń and Marek Pyza. Both have a close relationship with Law and Justice, the ruling party in Poland from 2015 to 2023. At the time, the Polish Government destabilized the country’s democratic institutions by weakening the independence of the judiciary and by harnessing the public service broadcaster Telewizja Polska to vilify political opponents and push its own agenda.

The theory of a bomb attack on the Tupolev carrying the country’s president and military leaders has served the Law and Justice party (PiS) for years as a weapon to attack the Civic Platform (Platforma Obywatelska, PO) chaired by Donald Tusk. Tusk, who is the current Prime Minister of Poland, was also Prime Minister at the time of the Smolensk air disaster. PiS has used the bomb theory to accuse the Tusk administrations of collaborating with Poland’s historical enemies, i.e., Russia and Germany, and portrayed Tusk alternately as an heir to Hitler, or a Putin’s henchman.

Gazeta Polska covers on Donakd Tusk.

In the run-up to the European Parliament elections, Aro’s book was quickly seized upon as a tool for domestic political power struggle in Poland. As Helsingin Sanomat explained in a follow-up article, Michał Rachoń, who presented the bomb attack theory to Aro, worked as a well-known TV presenter from 2016 to 2023, representing the views of the ruling party Law and Justice. Rachoń began working for the party in the early 2000s in a communications role, at which time he earned a reputation for undermining political opponents through mudslinging. After publication, Rachoń presented Aro’s book during a live broadcast of Jedziemy, a program he presents on TV Republika, characterizing any criticism of it, including the article in Helsingin Sanomat, as putting pressure on the author and aiming to hide the truth.

Marek Pyza, who is another central source used for the book and the editor in chief of the online newspaper, attended the launch of Aro’s book in Helsinki. Pyza has written an article on the publication of the book in Poland titled “Well-known Finnish Journalist Refutes the Smolensk Disaster”. In a study published by Oxford University on manipulative influencing targeting the 2019 European Parliament elections, was categorized as a junk news outlet comparable to such websites as Voiceofeurope,,,, and At the time, the Oxford researchers concluded that the website was not edited in line with basic journalistic principles of reliability, transparency, and professionalism. In the study, sources that typically depended on content that was ideologically extremist, biased, sensationalized, and conspiratorial were categorized as junk news.

Nevertheless, the claims presented in a nonfiction book cannot, as such, be evaluated based on the sources used. This is why the next section focuses on the accuracy of the book’s three central claims associated with the air disaster. In closing, we will return to the main theme of the book, which is the fight against hybrid warfare by the Putin administration, with which Jessikka Aro also links the bomb attack theory presented in the book.

Claim 1: The Government of Poland did not carry out a proper investigation of the accident and instead accepted the propaganda by the Russian administration on the events.

In the book, Aro bases the claim on a view of the events created by Michał Rachoń: “[I]n autumn 2017, I was sitting in a restaurant in Warsaw opposite a Polish colleague I respect. He told me that a proper investigation of the accident was never carried out. There was evidence that proved Russia had played a part in the disaster.”

This claim is incorrect. Under Article 26 of the Convention on International Civil Aviation, the State in which an accident to an aircraft has occurred is responsible for investigating the accident but the State in which the aircraft is registered – in this case Poland – has the opportunity to appoint its observers for the inquiry. According to the Russian accident investigation conducted in 2010, the accident was caused by an incorrect decision by the pilots of the aircraft to attempt landing in poor weather and a failure to pay attention to the warnings generated by the TAWS system. The investigation determined that shortcomings in the training of the flight crew contributed to the accident as an underlying cause. The psychological pressure that the pilot was subjected to due to the responsibility of transporting VIP personnel to their destination in the agreed upon manner was also highlighted.

However, the accident investigation was not limited solely to the conclusions of the Russian investigators. Although their conclusions pointed in the right direction, they were incomplete and contained some mistakes. On the day of the accident, experts appointed by the Polish Government and Military Prosecutor’s Office arrived at the accident site. A second group, which included the remaining 18 experts, who contributed to the work of the 30-person investigative committee led by the Polish Minister of Interior Affairs Jerzy Miller in Russia arrived at the site the next day.

The investigative team was tasked with examining the site of the accident and documenting the events in light of evidence. The Polish experts were not satisfied with the Russian report and instead submitted more than 100 comments on the report based on the standards and recommended practices for investigating aircraft accidents and incidents drawn up by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). These comments were included as annexes to the Russian report. Instead of psychological factors, the comments highlighted technical shortcomings in the Russian investigation and at Smolensk North Airport and mistakes by air traffic control as the plane was approaching the airport.

Two separate accident investigations were launched in Poland, which arrived at identical conclusions on the causes of the disaster. The Committee for Investigation of National Aviation Accidents (Miller’s Committee) appointed by Polish Government released its report in 2011. The committee was tasked with determining the causes of the accident and making proposals for improving aviation safety. An English language version of the report can be downloaded here. A second investigation was conducted by a team of experts appointed by the Military Prosecutor’s Office with the aim of identifying those responsible for the accident. The team included leading military aviation experts and technical specialists with specific expertise in different areas of accident investigation. Faktabaari has also gained access to a report compiled by the latter team, which was suppressed by the Government led by Law and Justice in 2015. Faktabaari has studied the report with the help of a Polish-speaking assistant.

As Miller’s Committee concluded its work, it also appointed a five-person team to further clarify the development and causes of the accident as well as the subsequent investigation, for the public. All the results have been published on the website Fakty Smolensk, which also provides answers to questions regarding the accident. The website is available in Polish, but it can also be viewed in English using the translation function offered by many web browsers. In addition to these sources, Faktabaari has examined the materials of the Polish accident investigation by interviewing a key member of Miller’s Committee, who does not wish to be named due to their current role, having changed jobs years ago.

Claim 2: The plane crashed as the result of explosions, which left marks on parts of the destroyed aircraft.

According to the investigation conducted by the government-appointed Miller’s Committee in 2010, the direct causes of the accident included the plane descending below the Minimum Descent Altitude, fog covering the wooded terrain, and a delay in pulling the aircraft up once landing proved impossible. The pilots made mistakes in failing to note the information indicated by the pressure altimeter and warnings by the TAWS system to pull up immediately. At this point, the Tupolev airliner was flying over a dip in the terrain and had already descended lower than the runway of the airport. Air traffic control also provided the crew with incorrect information on the plane’s location relative to the approach path. Shortcomings in the training of the pilots also contributed to the event as an underlying factor.

“Our report identified many irregularities on both the Polish and the Russian side. We proposed numerous structural and organizational changes. Our recommendations have been successfully implemented in the Polish army, increasing the safety of flights”, says a member of Miller’s Committee interviewed by Faktabaari. According to the interview, claims that the Polish accident investigation was a copy of the Russian one are completely unfounded.

The results of the investigation by the prosecutor’s office also prove without question that miscalculations by the pilots, poor communication between the crew and air traffic control, and heavy fog contributed to the accident. During the flight, no technical issues occurred in the plane, nor did anything discovered during the investigation support the claims of explosives or explosions in the plane. On approach to Smolensk North Airport, the pilot failed to begin pulling up in time to steer clear of the trees ahead. The speed of the aircraft, its distance from the airport and the ground, angle of approach, engine power, and poor visibility all contributed to his fatal mistake.

When the Law and Justice party rose to power with its allies in 2015, the new Government closed down the Miller’s Committee website and halted the investigation conducted by the Military Prosecutor’s Office. Instead, the new Government launched its own investigation of the accident, which aimed to prove the theory of a Russian bomb attack through technical tests and calculations. The Law and Justice party was chaired by Jarosław Kaczyński, the twin brother of Lech Kaczyński, who died in the accident. Kaczyński welcomed the investigation. As the investigation was separate from the lawful accident investigation activities and did not include any government experts on accident investigations, the new investigation team was appointed as a “subcommittee”.

Several members of the Macierewicz subcommittee, who took part in technical tests including explosion testing, resigned before the committee had completed its work. They believed that the tests were randomly organized, overinterpreted, and manipulated. For example, the subcommittee aimed to use these tests to prove that the tip of the left wing of the aircraft was sheared off because of a bomb and not by an impact with the trunk of the birch tree in which pieces of the wing were found after the accident. Correspondingly, wood material was discovered on the separated part of the wing but no signs of explosion could be seen. The resigned members of the subcommittee pointed out that if a bomb had exploded inside the wing, it would have had to cause symmetrical damage on both sides of the point of explosion and ignite the fuel within the wing. But no trace of this could be found.

“Conflicting evidence is either dismissed quietly or interpreted inconsistently with its content. The problem in the Smolensk case is that reports have, from the outset, been written with the aim of matching a preconceived conclusion”, Marek Dąbrowski, an architect who resigned from the subcommittee, explained in conversation with a TVN reporter in 2022.

Based on information published by Polish radio in 2019 during the Law and Justice party’s term in government, Aro writes that technicians working for the Polish police discovered traces of an explosive material known as TNT in the remains of the aircraft and the soil at the crash site after the accident. “When Polish officials had denied the existence of explosives, it was the bereaved whose calls led to the analyses of explosive residue in international forensic laboratories in Ireland, Italy, and Great Britain”, Aro writes. Traces of explosives were found during such analyses conducted as part of the subcommittee’s review in 2017 and 2019.

The explosion theory is undermined by several facts regarding the destruction of the aircraft: If the aircraft had disintegrated in the air as a result of an explosion, parts of the aircraft and items from inside its hull would have been spread all over the site of the explosion. Instead, first parts of debris from the aircraft were found in or behind trees that had been cut down, as is typical during an impact with an object. Furthermore, the remains of the plane and the deceased were found within a relatively small oval-shaped area of 160 by 50 meters behind the point where the aircraft first came into contact with the ground.

The bomb attack claims are addressed thoroughly in a documentary film Siła kłamstwa (The Power of Lies) by Piotr Świerczek, an investigative journalist for TVN24, who was awarded the Medal for Freedom of Speech by the Grand Press Foundation of Poland in 2023. According to the film, the validity of the bomb attack theory would require that the Russians who planned the attack were able to stage an accident site with damaged trees on the flight path of the Tupolev with astonishing accuracy within a few minutes of the explosion and the crash. On approach toward the airport, the aircraft descended to less than seven meters, which means that it would have been necessary to cut the trees on the aircraft’s flight path mere moments later at exactly the right places. These included the birch tree that broke the left wing of the plane, the branches that tore through it, and the poplar tree that broke off the tail.

Had the damage to the trees been staged, it would have required such a level of detail that the results matched the calculations on the aircraft’s flight path conducted years later by a NIAR laboratory at Wichita State University. The subcommittee chaired by Antoni Macierewicz, which promoted the bomb attack theory, ordered the calculations from the institute that has also provided its services to Boeing and Bombardier, for example, and paid eight million złoty or almost 1.9 million euros for the work. But only parts of the resulting report were released by the subcommittee. The subcommittee hid from the public the majority of the results included in the report produced by the US institute, as they did not fit the bomb attack theory and were instead consistent with the accident investigation conducted by the Polish Government. For example, calculations by NIAR confirmed that the end of the wing was cut off by an impact with a birch tree as had been concluded by the investigations conducted previously in Russia and Poland.

Broken trees and branches on the road can be seen in a video taken moments after the accident by a Russian car mechanic, who was near the accident site, which leads to the conclusion that the trees were not cut down later. The birch tree that was cut in two at a height of little over five meters can also be seen in a video taken at the accident site by Polish television.

The broken tree. Source: Fakty Smolensk.

The separated tip of the wing was found more than a hundred meters away from the birch tree, which is consistent with the flight path of a section of wing weighing hundreds of kilograms that hits a birch tree at the speed of 270 kilometers per hour as modeled later at University of Toronto. In turn, the NIAR calculations confirm that the cabin door that was embedded deep in the ground could have ended up there because it was pushed down by the hull of the aircraft and not as the result of an explosion, as claimed by the Macierewicz subcommittee and Aro. The same calculations also show that the fragmentation of the aircraft and the human bodies could have been caused by the forces generated after the wing was torn off. In Aro’s book, these are presented as individual pieces of evidence to support the bomb attack theory, but the weight of evidence does not appear to survive a full reading of the NIAR report. Based on the remains of the deceased, Polish investigators later concluded that during the crash, the passengers were subjected to more than 100 Gs or more than 100 times the acceleration due to gravity, which would explain the numerous injuries.

The Macierewicz subcommittee included the video taken by the Russian mechanic in its sources but continued to claim that the aircraft flew over the trees and exploded in the air because of bombs placed inside its left wing and hull. In turn, the Law and Justice-led Government tried to suppress the investigative work of Piotr Świerczek by taking legal action against the journalist and attempting to withdraw the license of TVN24, for which Świerczek was working. In her book, Aro quotes claims made by the Macierewicz subcommittee that “the pilots had not attempted to land the aircraft at Smolensk North Airport” and had instead “taken measures at a safe altitude”. The subcommittee and the book similarly lay blame for the disaster on “Russian intelligence services”, which both directed the plane onto a hazardous flight path from Moscow and blew it up in the air.

The theory further requires that the aircraft’s black boxes, i.e., devices that record flight data, discussions in the cockpit, and factors pertaining to the technical performance of the aircraft, were manipulated later. This is also what Aro claims in her book in line with the Macierewicz subcommittee. But this is not correct according to the Polish investigators. Three of the four black boxes were found, and together they were used to recreate a full picture of the final seconds of the flight, including its descent too low on approach, impacts with the trees, becoming inverted, and the horrified reactions of the crew. But there are no signs of an explosion in mid-air in these recordings. Polish specialists were present when the contents of the Russian-made flight recorders were recovered in Russia. The possibility of manipulation is also ruled out by the fact that one the recorders, a model ATM QAR, had been manufactured in Poland, where it was sent to be examined as its encrypted memory card could only be decrypted with the help of its Polish manufacturer.

In her book, Aro dismisses these facts mainly based on claims presented by Glenn Jørgensen, a Danish engineer with a master’s degree in fluid dynamics, that “the black boxes from the aircraft were not given to Poland” by the Russians, and that “the Russians manipulated segments of the cockpit recording that were significant in terms of evidentiary value”. Jørgensen is married to Polish journalist Ewa Stankiewicz. As Aro says, Stankiewicz has also questioned the official account of the event and sought links with Russia in her documentary films. As for Jørgensen, he studied to become an air accident investigator in order to find out what happened in Smolensk. He applied and was accepted to the Macierewitz subcommittee. According to the book, he was the only member of the committee with a master’s degree in air accident investigation.

Nevertheless, Jørgensen appears, either deliberately or unintentionally, to rely on distorted information in his interview with Aro. Jørgensen claims that the NIAR analysis showed that “a series of explosions occurred inside the hull of the aircraft. Just above ground level.” According to Jørgensen, the cabin door pushed into the ground is key evidence of this. This is not accurate based on the NIAR report. The 160-page report does not include a single mention of explosions and instead the summary of the detailed calculations presented on page 152 states that “The kinematics and analysis of door 823 show that the aircraft inertial loads can push the door into the soil once it is separated from the fuselage”. In addition to the above, Świerczek shows in his documentary film that the Macierewicz subcommittee altered recordings from the black boxes in order to match the alleged sound of an explosion with the timeframe of the impacts with trees.

Aro takes an understandably suspicious view of the accident investigation conducted in Russia in 2010, although at the time Putin’s administration was nowhere near as far-gone in its “war with the West” as it is today and was rather aiming to strengthen cooperation with Poland. Nevertheless, calculations by a Danish engineer with a master’s degree in air accident investigation and the statements of the politicized Macierewicz subcommittee carry more weight with Aro than the results of two Polish accident investigations and the NIAR laboratory calculations on the course of the accident that were released in 2022.

In the end, a critical reader is essentially left with the assumption that the governments led by Tusk and Putin conspired against the Law and Justice party (and the top leadership of the Polish armed forces). This is the assumption Aro guides the readers of her book toward. But such a conspiracy would have had to have included the independent Military Prosecutor’s Office, which conducted its own investigation of the events. A conspiracy targeting the President of Poland and commanders of its armed forces would have constituted a military attack against a NATO member. The Smolensk chapter of the book makes insinuations of such a conspiracy but provides precious little evidence for it.

Aro refers to information presented by Michał Rachoń on Polish television in a documentary series titled Reset, which was broadcast during the Law and Justice party’s term in government. The information is based on materials disclosed by Polish ministries and the Prime Minister’s Office. It is alleged that Polish military intelligence concluded an agreement with FSB in 2013 under which they “shall offer each other mutual assistance in response to intelligence and influence activities by third countries targeting the Russian Federation or the Republic of Poland”. According to Prime Minister Tusk, the agreement relates to the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, which Rachoń in turn calls into question in his interview with Aro.

Aro also presents a few eyewitness statements in support of the bomb attack theory. One local eyewitness tells of having heard the “sound of a bomb” as the aircraft came down, which is also used in a subheading in the book. Another says that they heard a loud explosion that resembled the noise of thunder. As Aro herself says, accident investigators collected hundreds of statements regarding the final moments of the aircraft in Poland and Russia. Despite this, even the few statements Aro has cherrypicked for her book are different from each other in terms of content.

Sławomir Wiśniewski, a camera operator for Polish television who was interviewed by Piotr Świerczek, saw the aircraft go down from his hotel room window and was on scene with his video camera while the burning aviation kerosene was still being distinguished around the wreck. He describes the events as follows: “I am sure I did not hear any explosions. If I had, I would certainly have been more afraid and would not have run to the accident site.” Instead, Wiśniewski saw ten tons of aviation kerosene go up in a wall of flame more than twice the height of the surrounding trees, burning the terrain and the remains of the passengers.

And what about the traces of TNT discovered in the wreck? In his documentary, Piotr Świerczek also takes a thorough look at these claims, which PiS has relied upon in their propagation of the bomb attack theory. Minimal traces of three different explosives, TNT, RDX, and PETN, were in fact discovered in the remains of the aircraft. The latter two are military explosives, which are used in such applications as plastic explosives and, in the case of PETN, in the manufacture of detonators for grenades and landmines and as the explosive core of detonation cord. As Aro writes in her book, the explosive traces were first discovered by the forensic laboratory of the Polish police during their investigation in 2012. Despite this, the police also eliminated explosion as a possible cause of the accident.

There may be good reasons for this conclusion. 90 percent of the samples in which traces of explosives were discovered were taken from seats on the aircraft. The State aircraft had been used to transport combat engineers, gunners, and other military personnel who work with explosives to military exercises and crisis management operations in Afghanistan, for example. The samples could very well have included small traces of explosives that were introduced to the plane with soldiers. During analyses conducted later in Great Britain, only three of the samples taken from the metal hull of the aircraft were found to contain traces of explosives, measured in nanograms. None of these came from the left wing of the aircraft.

As Piotr Świerczek in his documentary explains based on eyewitness statements, the tests conducted during the review of the incident launched by the Law and Justice party did not follow particularly stringent cleanliness requirements. Before RDX was finally found in a single sample taken from the tip section of the left wing that was handed over by Russia, the part of wing had been left on the floor of a hangar in a military airfield. According to Świerczek, “a stadium’s worth of people”, including soldiers, had visited the site for tests without wearing sterile gloves.

Claim 3: Poland has been divided in two by spreading Russian propaganda to hide the truth of the air disaster.

Aro begins her book with an account of meeting Michał Rachoń in 2016 at a conference organized during a NATO summit in Warsaw and again the following year: “Michał told me about a disaster that was used to divide the Polish people and journalists through Russian lies: An air disaster in Smolensk, Russia, in 2010, in which the President of Poland and 95 other people were killed.”

In light of the information gathered by Faktabaari, the story presented by Rachoń is only half true. The air disaster was used to divide Poland, but Rachoń himself is one of the architects of this campaign as a political operator. Furthermore, disinformation originating from Russia or from Polish operators with close ties to Russia has been used to divide Poland, but not in the manner alleged by Aro. The bomb attack theory propagated by the Law and Justice Party has been a useful tool for the Putin administration as it has fueled polarization in Poland. Russia has used controversial claims to feed internal conflict in Poland in various ways. It is possible that Aro’s book has, contrary to its intentions, become an instrument of disinformation built on the bomb attack theory.

“The accident was an ordinary air disaster, and it had no connection to Russian secret services or Putin’s people. PiS has used this conspiracy theory linked with the accident to cynically tear our country in two for political reasons”, investigative reporter Grzegorz Rzeczkowski, who works for the Polish edition of Newsweek, tells Faktabaari.

Sources unearthed by Rzeczkowski, which Faktabaari has been unable to review directly, hint toward Russia’s role in propagating the bomb attack theory. In 2020, Rzeczkowski published a book titled Katastrofa posmoleńska: Kto rozbił Polskę (Post-Smolensk Disaster: Who Destroyed Poland). The book seeks to pinpoint the source of the conspiracy theories built around the accident. Rzeczkowski has discovered Polish pro-Putin and pro-Russia groups behind the bomb attack theory, which have close ties with journalists who have supported the Law and Justice party.

“In my opinion, Russia has promoted the theory in order to divide Polish society and spread discord in the country”, Rzeczkowski says. “When writing my book, I discussed these matters with former employees of the Polish intelligence service, who had discovered links with [the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation] FSB.”

Rzeczkowski says that there is a lot of evidence that Russia has used the accident to divide Poland and interfere with the country’s internal situation. A key piece of this evidence is a video that was transported from Russia to Poland a few months after the accident. The video contained horrific scenes from the site of the accident including battered corpses lying on the ground. The Russians seen in the video appear to lack any regard for the remains.

“Our counterintelligence service was able to prove that the video was taken by a camera used by FSB a couple of hours after the accident”, Rzeczkowski continues. “In Poland, the video provoked anger toward the Tusk Government, which had allowed the Russians to treat our heroes like this. The video fed into the conspiracy theory.”

Rzeczkowski says that conspiracy theories concerning the Smolensk air disaster first originated from pro-Putin groups three or four days after the accident. They were the first to ask the questions: “Look, it wasn’t an accident, was it? Do you think Putin killed our President?” The Law and Justice party only latched onto the theory in the wake of these groups, at which point the claims started to circulate more widely.

Rzeczkowski says that he is completely convinced that there is no basis or evidentiary weight to the conspiracy theory built by Law and Justice on the claims of a bomb attack. “The party has used the conspiracy to split our society in two and rise to power by mystifying the incident.”

The member of the investigative committee appointed by the State of Poland who was interviewed by Faktabaari also believes that painting the accident as a terrorist attack is propaganda used to divide Poland. The accident was a massive shock to Polish society. It was turned into one of the tools Law and Justice wielded to gain power in 2015. “It is a good thing that those times are behind us, although attempts to distort facts still take place”, they say.

Faktabaari sent the entire article to be read by Jessikka Aro before publication, but she did not respond to contacts from the editorial staff in any way. Aro also refused to discuss the claims presented in her book with a journalist working for Suomen Kuvalehti.

After the publication of the article’s Finnish version and a discussion on the book’s claims on the Smolensk air disaster with Jessikka Aro in Kulttuuriykkönen, a radio program of Yle, the Finnish public service media company on June 5th, 2024, Aro requested 16 corrections to be made to the article. After examining all correction requests in detail, Faktabaari added the word “mainly” to this sentence: “In her book, Aro dismisses these facts mainly based on claims presented by Glenn Jørgensen, a Danish engineer with a master’s degree in fluid dynamics […]” Aro stated in her correction request regarding this point that the “distortion of the contents of the black boxes” is also described in other parts of the book, which is correct. Regarding other correction requests, we could not find anything to correct.

Main image: A fragment of the wreckage of the Tupolev-154 passenger plane in a field near Smolensk airport on April 10, 2010. / European Pressphoto Agency EPA. On top is a photo of the cover of Jessikka Aro’s book.

This publication is part of Faktabaari’s fact-checking project funded by the European Media and Information Fund (EMIF).


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